May is American Wetlands Month and this year we want to celebrate the work our private landowners have done to help wetlands thrive. In Indiana, private landowners have worked with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to enroll more than 81,000 acres in wetlands. These wetlands protect plants and provide habitat for wildlife, including endangered or threatened species.
Wetlands are one of our most productive ecosystems and provide enrichment and enjoyment. They also filter water, reduce soil loss, sequester carbon from the atmosphere, reduce flooding, and recharge groundwater. They even provide recreational opportunities like hunting and fishing.
Farmers and private landowners in Indiana have worked with NRCS to create, restore and enhance wetlands for decades. They have incorporated wetlands into their operations for the benefits to the environment and their land. Learn more about the easement process and hear testimony from one of Indiana’s wetland easement landowners about his experience enrolling in the program here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7Pugn690dA.
In Indiana, we have one of the largest wetland restorations in the country – the Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area. Through a partnership between NRCS and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Goose Pond consists of approximately 8,000 acres of restored wetlands in Greene County, Indiana and has become a mecca for migrating waterfowl, shore birds and upland birds including threatened and endangered species. Approximately 4,000 acres of shallow open water wetlands were constructed and over 400 acres of trees were planted along with establishing nearly 1,400 acres of native prairies. Birdwatchers throughout the Midwest are often found around the property observing rare and unusual birds including the Least tern, Whooping cranes and Henslow’s sparrow.
NRCS offers financial and technical assistance to farmers and private landowners through programs to create, restore, and enhance wetlands. The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program - Wetland Reserve Easement (ACEP-WRE) component offers opportunities to put marginal cropland and other eligible land into permanent and 30-year easements. NRCS accepts ACEP-WRE applications year-round but applications are ranked and funded by enrollment periods. We encourage you to meet with your NRCS representative now to start the process for next year’s signup.
As we celebrate the month, our producers, partners, educators and others deserve thanks for helping to protect wetlands.
If you are a farmer or private landowner interested in learning more about wetlands, please contact your local USDA Service Center to set up an in-person or phone appointment. Because of the pandemic, some USDA Service Centers are open to limited visitors, but staff continue to work via phone, email, and other digital tools. Additionally, more information related to USDA’s response and relief for producers can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.